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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

Lord, Forgive Us Our Trespassin'

Friends, thank you for helping my guy feel so loved! LINK

Although Mike reads my posts each week, he generally doesn't read all of your contributions after each one. I supplied the Kleenex and made sure he read your comments after the last one, though.

But lest I make my husband of 47 years sound like a saint, I do need to remind you of the time he was arrested right here in Haywood County.

Well, almost....

Other than being pulled over a time or two for hurrying on the highway, Mike had never come close to being seized by the authorities before.

Until he was.

Here's what happened.

We are a family of hikers. You have to be, living in these parts.

It’s a downhill constitutional to our mailbox, and steep enough coming back up to necessitate pulling out your inhaler. Depending on where you park at church, you might either be surveying the steeple as you descend or singing songs of ascent like pilgrims huffing their way to Jerusalem. To enter Sweet Onion, our favorite restaurant downtown, you park on such a sharp pitch downhill that patrons practically skid through the front door.

The first inhabitants of these hills, the eastern band of Cherokees, called the region Shaconage – Land of the Blue Mist. No wonder we have such an ambiguous way of seeing things. Your vision pardonably gets a little blurry when you’re surrounded on all sides by such shrouded beauty.

So maybe that explains why law-abiding is a slightly debatable matter when residing in the foothills of the Smokies.

Some time back, my husband and youngest son shrugged on their backpacks to explore a trail Jordan had discovered online that looked promising. It wound uphill through several thousand acres owned by the local water company, and was duly posted with a “No Trespassing: Call This Number” sign at the trailhead.

Mike checked his cell service, dialed, and waited. No answer.

Knocked on the door of the small office nearby. No response.

What to do?

Oh, the siren call of the cerulean skies! The downshifting of light through the verdant forest! The itchiness in their feet to reach the views atop the Blue Ridge! They grabbed their trekking poles and set off.

Mike estimates they’d hiked nearly four miles along an old logging road when they heard rumbling. My guys stepped off the trail to let a big pickup truck pass, but it pulled up sharply alongside instead.

A pair of broad shoulders appeared topped by a glowering face that had seen more than a few miles of dirt road. The man's companion wore a matching scowl.

“Whatcha boys doin’?”

My husband, ever the friendly fellow, cheerfully explained the afternoon’s objective: to picnic at the top of the ridge where the views were said to be spectacular.

The pickup driver was not impressed. “Didn’t ya see the NO TRESPASSIN' sign down thar?”

Well, yes they had, but seeing as they weren’t looking to hunt or fish, they had supposed it was ok to proceed.

“Waahl, y’all sposed wrong,” The driver spat a wad of brown juice at Mike’s feet. “Git in the truck. We’re takin’ ya back down.” He jerked his head towards the bed of the truck. “Ya ain’t ridin’ with us.”

Now this was a first. Most everyone we’ve met in our county has been kind to a fault, but this one had a burr in his saddle about something. The guys climbed in among a tangle of chainsaws, hatchets, and weed-whackers. Later Jordan swore he’d heard dueling banjos off in the distance. They rattled back down the trail.

It got worse.

Two squad cars were waiting at the trailhead, one for each offender. Three boys in blue were leaning against the doors, arms crossed over bellies, eyes shielded by reflective glasses.

Same question, this time with the force of The Law.

“Whatcha boys doin’? Don’t cha know the laws about trespassin’? They’s only two reasons people go up thar.”

Mike was dying to ask what those two reasons were, but the day was getting uncomfortably warm.

He repeated what he’d told their captors. Saw the sign, tried to call, no response, beautiful day, what harm was there… Maybe what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate, ha ha!

Let the reader be warned: Do not use lines from old movies when you are about to be handcuffed.

The sergeant was unamused. “Hand over them packs, and lessee what you got in thar.”

The junior officers dumped the contents on the ground and poked through sandwiches, trail mix, and sunscreen. They glanced at hiking maps, rifled through pockets. They looked bored.

Eager to mend fences, Mike mentioned bear scat they’d spotted on the trail.

“Yeah, and yer lucky ya didn’t meet up with one,” an officer snorted. ‘One of them’ll knock ya inta the middle a’ next week.”

Inspection complete, the guilty pair were released with a stern warning.

“You boys mind them trespassin’ signs from now on, ya hear? Round here they shoot first and ask questions later.”

My menfolk came home duly chastened but grinning at their brush with Justice mountain-style.

Lord, forgive us our trespasses.

That prayer has never had more meaning than it does now.

- Maggie Wallem Rowe

Maggie Wallem Rowe is a national dramatist and speaker who writes from Peace Ridge, her home in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. The author of two books - This Life We Share and Life is Sweet, Y'all - Maggie loves everything about life in southern Appalachia other than those pesky NO TRESPASSING signs.

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